Rover's 'SAM' lab instrument suite tastes soil

November 14, 2012 by Guy Webster
This subframe image from the left Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the covers in place over two sample inlet funnels of the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

(Phys.org)— A pinch of fine sand and dust became the first solid Martian sample deposited into the biggest instrument on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity: the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM.

Located inside the rover, SAM examines the chemistry of samples it ingests, checking particularly for chemistry relevant to whether an environment can support life. Curiosity's robotic arm delivered SAM's first taste of to an inlet port on the rover deck on Nov. 9. During the following two days, SAM used , and laser spectrometry to analyze the sample.

The sample came from the patch of windblown material called "Rocknest," which had provided a sample previously for mineralogical analysis by Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument. CheMin also received a new sample from the same Rocknest scoop that fed SAM. SAM has previously analyzed samples of the .

"We received good data from this first solid sample," said SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We have a lot of data analysis to do, and we are planning to get additional samples of Rocknest material to add confidence about what we learn."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the rover.

Explore further: NASA's Mobile Mars Laboratory almost ready for flight

Related Stories

NASA's Mobile Mars Laboratory almost ready for flight

October 8, 2010

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite has completed assembly at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and is nearly ready for a December delivery to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, ...

Recommended for you

The search for molecular oxygen among cosmic oxygen atoms

July 27, 2015

Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe (after hydrogen and helium) and of course it is important: all known life forms require liquid water and its oxygen content. For over thirty years, astronomers have ...

Hubble looks in on a galactic nursery

July 27, 2015

This dramatic image shows the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's view of dwarf galaxy known as NGC 1140, which lies 60 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus. As can be seen in this image NGC 1140 has an ...

Fossil star clusters reveal their age

July 27, 2015

Using a new age-dating method, an international team of astronomers has determined that ancient star clusters formed in two distinct epochs – the first 12.5 billion years ago and the second 11.5 billion years ago.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.